Every firm with an African footprint has a target. Not just a financial target, that’s the essence of being in business anyway, but a more important and sensitive target: The Public. Firms communicate strategies, business plans, goals and FY achievement to relevant internal stakeholders and relate appropriate information on a need-to-know basis to an external public.
Now, whatever the reason for communicating, multinational firms operating across Africa must realise every region has its own specific public, defined by socio-cultural beliefs, guided by local economic pillars and most are entrenched in religion and faith principles. Having worked with one of the Big-4 Audit firms across Western, Eastern and the Southern regions of Africa for over a decade, my work and assignments see me wearing multiple caps at different stages of the communication cycle and replicating different templates to the various regions, even though it’s the same project. Why? Because the local audience should be made receptive to whatever a firm is trying to communicate from Global/Headquarter.
At the onset of globalisation, communication experts localising global campaign from Head-office across Africa were initially bombarded with feedback of misinterpretation (even if the communication plan is in the English Language), unseen innuendos, wrong language interpretation (From the English language to Francophone or the Portuguese speakers) and lack of consideration of time difference. With constant interaction with local staff and influential media personalities, business communication across SSA has, over the years, become part of a wholesome, yet fragile and technical part of every multinational’s goal of reaching its targeted public and internal audience.
The principle, policies, and procedures of business communication in Africa are further enhanced by the digitisation transition cutting across all forms of the business cycle. Every region in Sub-Saharan Africa where a firm has a footprint should be treated equally when it comes to dissemination of critical business information as what’s disseminated in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will definitely filter to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region and will affect operations in all regions and care must be taken to highlight the network of firms the communication is meant for.
The paragraph above is often treated with levity by corporate communication managers/directors, yes they know the essence of communication, and yes, they have an idea of the impact the campaign will have, but do they really? What we post on company website will filter unto Twitter and might get drafted into ‘Black-Twitter’ and message might be misconstrued without a link to our website where the audience can get the real and factual news; this brings us to the importance of platform on which we share corporate information. I am a firm believer that multinational firms operating in Africa should have a digital presence on all platforms (LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc), and key business communication should be communicated via these channels accordingly and respectively.
As corporate communication experts, we are meant to expand our knowledge base daily, know as much as possible about every product and services of the firm and how to enhance the brand. CCE deals with people, a human angle that cannot be grasped by others, reason why firms, especially, those coming to or operating in Africa with a hope of regional expansion, should invest in the corporate communication department.
Firms should tell their own stories, firms should own their stories, firms should be able to defend their own stories and if found below standard, should be willing to apologise to its public. As communicators, when we treat our public with respect, they will be a great ambassador for our brand, yes, even if they are not buying our products or services.